Wal-Mart Stores (WMT), which for years has touted its prowess at lowering prices, has been doing the opposite as it tries to bolster its bottom line amid stagnating sales.

A JPMorgan Chase (JPM) study of a Walmart Supercenter in Virginia found that the world's largest retailer has raised prices by nearly 6% on average over the past six weeks, according to the New York Post. Reuters says it was the biggest sequential increase since JPMorgan started the study in January 2009.

Some Prices Hiked Over 60%

Some of the price hikes were considerably larger. For instance, the price of a 32-ounce bottle of Windex household cleaner jumped 50%, a 12-ounce box of Quaker Oats instant grits climbed 65% and a 50-ounce container of Tide detergent rose by more than 50%. A spokesperson for the Bentonville, Ark., company could not immediately be reached for comment.

The results of the price-hike study aren't entirely surprising. Shares of Wal-Mart, which rose at the height of the recent recession, are down more than 2% this year amid lackluster performance at its U.S. stores, where same-store sales fell 1.1% during the 13 weeks ended April 30. When Wal-Mart announced a revamping of the management team overseeing these stores, including the departures of CEO and President of Wal-Mart U.S. Eduardo Castro-Wright and Chief Merchandising Officer John Fleming, current Wal-Mart U.S. CEO Bill Simon bluntly said, "our mandate is clear: increase customer traffic, make sure our products are relevant to our customer and never give an inch on price leadership."

Unfortunately for Wal-Mart, keeping prices low is tough with less store traffic. To make matters worse, rivals appear to be doing better. Target (TGT) reported a 2% gain in July same-store sales, which are a key metric for retail investors. Kohl's (KSS) reported a 4.1% gain. Wal-Mart stopped releasing monthly same-store sales figures for its units last year, so making an apples-to-apples comparison is difficult.

Narrowing Its Lead in the Low-Price Wars

Wal-Mart is also under assault in the grocery aisle -- one of the areas it has aggressively expanded over the last few years. As the Post notes, "Although Walmart still has lower prices on key groceries and staples compared to mainstream supermarkets, its lead is narrowing -- to 10.4% last month from 16% in June." The grocery business is noted for its low margins and fierce competition. Even niche players like Whole Foods Market (WFMI) cut prices by 0.7% in July, the paper says.

Theoretically, this should be Wal-Mart's moment to shine. U.S. consumer confidence in July was at its lowest point since February. People still want low prices. Unfortunately for Wal-Mart, they just would rather shop at other stores.

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August 17 2010 at 12:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


August 16 2010 at 11:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

In 1985 when Wall MArt came to Indiana the sold made in the USA all the way and with pride. Also stores did not open on Sunday until noon so employees could go to church. They were not opened on holidays so the employees could be with their families. Sam passes and the stores opened 24 hours a day and on holidays. Merchandice they used to sell cannot be found and even tho the stores are bigger there is less selection in brands. I have been a stock holder all these years and have always shopped Wal Mart but am going to other stores now due to frustration when I shop.

August 16 2010 at 7:08 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

people stop buying at walmart make them go broke theyare not amercan they are nothing help us make them go out of business

August 16 2010 at 4:17 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

i stooped shopping at walmart i stopped because im not stupid i went back to big y when they have good sales i dont like sneaks like walmart

August 16 2010 at 4:02 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

price of windex went up? no one should be using it anyway, AMMONIA is a toxic substance for the air in your house, and the environment. Use diluted RUBBING ALCHOHOL for the cleanest mirrors and glass. so much cheaper too.

August 16 2010 at 2:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to Ginny's comment

Walmart- turn your a/c units on and pay to have some more cashiers on hand to service the customers. The stores are under stocked and also under staffed and so hot.That's not the way to treat your customers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

August 16 2010 at 1:52 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to beckyhallmark's comment

hey, they have their air conditioning on, they have decided to become GREEN so nothing works right like the ac, welcome to the green america where you will get a chance to smell your neighbor in line at Walmart or any other green stores!!!!

August 16 2010 at 7:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Wal-Mart just does not make sence, the store is way to big it's hard to find items, nobody helps or speak's english, there price for most items the public uses are high, there cheap junk from china is priced below market but no body needs it, so why bother. I would never give them another dine of my money. shop localy in "mom and pop" stores at-least there money is not exported to china or feeds hungry CEO salaries.

August 16 2010 at 1:24 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

In our area, the Wal-Marts are all removing their fabric departments. This is a big deal in this part of the country! They did it, not because there was so little demand for fabric, but because they had to have someone available on the floor at all times to actually offer some SERVICE! So now they don't have to pay anyone to be accessible on the floor and they can all either be at the registers or the returns/complaint/"service" counter. Seriously, any time I see someone who is stocking shelves at Wal-Mart and ask a question, turns out they are all vendors and don't know about anything except their own products. And because they have driven out nearly all the competition within a 30-mile radius, I'm a captive customer!

August 16 2010 at 11:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Two recent Wal-Mart experiences here in Georgia USA made me wonder about the store and their hiring practices as it relates to customer service. On two occasions I asked two different female employees for assistance in locating an item. Niether spoke english, not a word, They just smiled and beagn looking around for another employee that could help me. Aren't there any english speaking job hunters around here they could have hired?

I learned two new phrases though - "No lo se" "no entiendo" - and it didn't cost me a dime!

August 16 2010 at 10:59 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply